Editors note: David sent this to us WEEKS ago, but we dropped the ball and didn’t publish it. Some of the words may be a bit dated, but the overall message is relevant. -Damien Bowman
Much like single malt scotch or hoppy craft beer, Virginia football is an acquired taste. Some (possibly the fortunate) never acquire the taste. Those that do, for better or worse, are hooked and subject to a lifetime of maddening possibilities, endless “what-ifs”, and perpetually unmet expectations.
The past two weeks of Virginia football serve as a microcosm of a lifetime as a Virginia fan. Last week Virginia was one 4th down conversion away from an historic upset of an uber-talented, top-10 Notre Dame team. After failing to hold Notre Dame on what would have been a win-sealing 4th down stop, the college football gods decided it was time to kick their favorite whipping boy in the teeth one more time. An obvious offensive holding penalty missed in the backfield resulted in a 20 yard gain for the Irish. Then the game ending dagger, a 40 yard touchdown bomb with 12 seconds to play to take the lead and win the game for Notre Dame. Only in Charlottesville, only to Virginia.
The Good Lord knows, that the last thing Virginia football needs is another moral victory, but walking out of Scott Stadium, Virginia fans were heart-broken, yet encouraged. Virginia played like they belonged with one of the best teams in the country. Virginia rallied from 2 scores down to take the lead, showed a moxie and even a swagger that has been absent from Scott Stadium for years. While Virginia lost, all was not lost and maybe, just maybe playing 2 top 10 teams in the first two weeks of the season would temper this team for the rest of the season and Virginia would rise from their interminable ashes in the ACC Coastal division.
Then, William & Mary came to town…
I hate playing William & Mary because I really like Jimmie Laycock. The two things you can take to the bank when playing The Tribe is that they will be very well prepared and very well coached. Against FBS teams, that almost always means W&M will be competitive for at least a half and occasionally will walk away with a well-deserved victory. However, after Virginia took the #9 team in the country to the wire the previous week, Virginia was poised to begin their renaissance. William & Mary was to be the first step in a march to a 5-2 record culminating in an Coastal showdown with Georgia Tech. In the prescient words of Lee Corso “not so fast!” This week, Virginia was every bit as challenged by William & Mary as they were by Notre Dame. Virginia fell behind by two scores to W&M, had to rally, and barely hung on for a win. When Virginia needed smash—mouth yards to grind out first downs to seal their victory, William & Mary was stronger, faster, and more effective in the trenches. Virginia was out-played at the line of scrimmage for most of the day. While this day the football deities begrudgingly smiled on Virginia football, Virginia fans left Scott Stadium wondering if another victory was possible this year or if this season represented yet another opportunity to improve season ticket seating for next year’s team under a new coaching regime.
Next week against Boise St, I suspect we will know which path Virginia football will take. With a victory against a solid if not strong BSU team, Virginia might embark upon a 5-2 mark and Coastal showdown with Ga. Tech. With a loss, I might start planning for just how close to the 50 yard line I want to sit next year and figuring out which seats are closest to the concessions and restrooms. There is no question Virginia’s players are good enough to win this game. The unanswered question, as has been the case under Mike London’s entire tenure, is can the Virginia coaching staff get this team ready to win? At this point, I think it’s a coin toss, a “pick ‘em”. Might be good…might be bad. The good news for me is that no matter which path Virginia takes, I will always have a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood 12 at the ready. Unlike Virginia football, Balvenie never disappoints.